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Dr. Lloyd Axworthy was born in 1939 in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He attended United College and received his BA in 1961. Afterwards he attended Princeton University, achieving his MA in 1963 and his PhD in 1972.
Dr. Axworthy was a long-time member of the Liberal Party of Canada. He began his political career in 1966 with his campaign for Liberal M.L.A. of Winnipeg-St. James and in 1968 for Winnipeg North-Centre, neither of which was successful. In 1969, he founded the Institute of Urban Studies as a result of his executive work with the Hellyer Task Force studying housing and urban development in Canadian cities, and remained its director until 1973. Afterwards, his campaigns in 1973 and 1977 for Liberal M.L.A. of Fort Rouge found success.
In 1979 he was elected Liberal M.P. in the Winnipeg-Fort Garry riding. The riding was redistributed in 1988 and Dr. Axworthy was elected in Winnipeg South Centre, where he remained in office until his retirement from public life in 2000. While the Liberal Party held majority, he was appointed to the Cabinet in several roles: Minister of Employment and Immigration (1980-1983), Minister Responsible for the Status of Women (1980-1982), and Minister of Transport (1983-1984). The Progressive Conservatives took over until 1993, and Dr. Axworthy served as Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification (1993-1996). Finally, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1996-2000), the role for which he is most well-known.
The most famous part of Dr. Axworthy’s tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs was his work in advancing the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, commonly known as the Ottawa Treaty. For this work, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. His focus more broadly was the advancement of global human security, for example in helping to institute the International Criminal Court, and the use of non-coercive “soft power” (as coined by Joseph Nye). In line with this focus, in 1999 and 2000 he was made Director of the UN Security Council.
Dr. Axworthy did not run for office in the 2000 federal election, and stepped out of public life. Between 2000 and 2004 he was made Director of the Liu Centre for Global Studies at the University of British Columbia. He continued his focus on human security and soft power in such areas as climate change, nuclear disarmament, and the American ballistic missile defense system. In 2003, he published his book Navigating a New World: Canada’s Global Future, which served as a reflection on his experiences in international affairs and his views on Canada’s unique place therein. He remained affiliated with the United Nations during this time and in 2004 was appointed UN Special Envoy in the Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict.
In May of 2004, Dr. Axworthy was inaugurated as President of the University of Winnipeg. The University has since undergone a great deal of reorganization and expansion, both physically and academically. Some broad strokes of the changes include improving campus sustainability, indigenous inclusion, expanding scientific research, bringing the University onto the international stage, and keeping up with the edge of the digital revolution. Dr. Axworthy retired from this position in June of 2014.